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Sunday, October 18, 2015


Hello dear friends!   Hope you all are staying warm.  How quickly the weather changes!   Last week we attended an auction and it was too warm for a sweater, this week we spotted the first snowflakes.   I wish we had more of the sunny 50 degree weather, but as they say, "If wishes were horses, all men would ride.".   Thanks to our woodpile, we haven't had to use the furnace yet.   I think a well-stacked woodpile is a thing of beauty.
Keeping Warm

Although we have newer windows, our house being so old and crooked, has a lot of drafts.  We use that plastic weatherproofing  over the windows in our unheated mud room and on the upstairs windows.   We also use bubble wrap as added insulation on the north side facing windows in the upstairs.   These windows face the neighbor's house ( in these old neighborhoods the houses are very close together), so we don't care about obstructing the view.   Just put the bubble wrap up on the windows, the static makes them cling, then we put the plastic weather proofing over that.  We've already noticed that the rooms are staying warmer.  BTW, we always buy these weatherproofing kits from the Goodwill store and from estate sales.   They only cost a couple of dollars there and are well worth it.   Last year our highest heating bill was around $100.   I wrote this post almost four years ago on tips for staying warm and cozy, it's become one of my most popular posts.

Auctions And Estate Sales

This past week we attended two auctions and three estate sales.   We won the bid for this washstand:
We needed more storage in our bathroom and this fit in perfectly.  It costs the same as a particle board one from the store and it's solid wood and will retain it's value because it's an antique.   Auctions are a wonderful way to furnish your home.   If you like antiques, they are a lot cheaper than antique stores and if you just want furniture and don't care about it's pedigree, furniture can be bought for pennies on the dollar.  I've seen like-new sofas go for less than ten dollars.  Many  auctions are to settle the estates of elderly people that  are not very hard on them.  Just be sure to set a limit, lest you go "bid crazy".   Never bid on the first few things, either.  Usually the bidders get excited and bid too high on them.  As the day wears on the crowds fall away, having spent all their money, and the things become cheaper.  Lucky you, if the items you want is at the end of the auction, when the auctioneer is tired out and the crowd just wants to get it over with.  Another tip is never to make the first bid.   The auctioneer  always starts out with a high amount, hoping to catch a newcomer.   I always wait until the bid comes down to one or five dollars, or for furniture, ten dollars. Even if you don't bid on anything, auctions are free entertainment.

Estate sales are wonderful places to get tools and household items.   This past year we've bought boxes of paintbrushes, sandpaper, drill bits, light bulbs, paint stripper, paint, yarn, cloth, etc.   for just a few dollars.  The prices on antiques seem to be on the high side, but if you go at the end of the last day, you can usually make a deal for 50% off the price.  Sometimes they have the last day as a half-price day.   Two places to find auctions and estate sales in your area are and  I wish I had known about auctions and estate sales when we were young and setting up house.   The cheap furniture that we bought (it was all we could afford)  fell apart within a year.

Ran bought me this beautiful Westmoreland milk glass swan compote at one of the estate sales.
It's a sweet reminder of one of the most memorable moments in our lives.   One day we were out for a ride when we came across acres upon acres of swans in a farmer's field.   There were thousands perhaps hundreds of thousand swans, as far as the eye could see.  The sound was deafening.  It was one of the most awesome things I ever experienced.  We live in the migration path of swans and sometimes we spot flocks of several dozens, but never did we see that many ever again. Our happiest memories have never been when we spent money.  Just goes to show you that money doesn't buy happiness.

Thrifty Meals

People always joke about eating beans and rice, but in truth they are two of the cheapest foods you can buy, especially if you buy them in bulk.   And they are filling.   Today we had bean burritos.
We make our own "refried" beans, they're cheaper  than the ones in a can and healthier too.  To make the beans we start with dried beans that we cook in a pressure cooker or ones that I have canned.  But you can make them on the stove top. Just wash and pick over the beans.   Place in bowl with enough water to cover them by a couple of inches.  Soak overnight.  In the morning rinse the beans and put in a pot with enough water to cover them by several inches.   Bring to a boil.  Once boiling turn down to a simmer and cook until the skins start to burst and the beans become as soft as you desire.   Sometimes old beans never seem to soften up enough, that's why if you are planning to make a lot of beans and rice, a pressure cooker is a good investment. (You might find one at an estate sale!)

On to the refried beans:   Once the beans have been cooked, mash them with a fork.   Add a clove of minced garlic, the juice of half a lime, salt and pepper to your liking, and about 1/4 C. salsa.  Heat through.
The rice is 1/2 C. rice cooked with a can of tomatoes and 1/2 C. water.  Add 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, chili powder and cumin.  Add salt if desired.   Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until the rice is tender about twenty minutes.

To make the burritos, spread some beans and rice on a tortilla.  Spread some salsa in a 8 X 10 inch pan.  Roll  the tortillas up and place in the pan.   Pour a can of enchilada sauce over and top with a handful of cheese.  Or leave off the cheese to make this vegan.   Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until the burritos are heated through.

To tell the truth, this is just as good as just the beans on top of the rice with a bit of cheese sprinkled atop.   I don't think that the tortillas add much to the flavor.   So to be extra thrifty, skip them.  I just happened to have some that I bought on the reduced for quick sale aisle.

For more tips on cooking with beans, I wrote this post.

Thrifty Baking

We're still working our way through our bushels of apples.   This applesauce cake is  wonderful  on a chilly evening with a cup of tea or better yet, a mug of cocoa.  (This is the recipe from the book, The Homecoming, cut down to practical proportions and I added the raisins)
Applesauce Cake

1/2 C, butter
1/ 2 C. sugar
1 C. applesauce
1/2 C. chopped nuts
1/2 C. raisins
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 3/4 C. flour
1 egg
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cloves
1 tsp. nutmeg

Cream butter until soft.  Add sugar a little at a time until the mixture is smooth.
Beat in the egg.
Alternately stir in dry ingredients and applesauce.  Beat until well-blended.
Add nuts and raisins.
Pour into a well greased loaf pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for one hour or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
Frost with a thick white frosting.

Thrifty Things We Did This Week

Refinished an auction find with refinisher purchased at an estate sale.
Traded our labor for a quart of honey.
Used our Subway card for a free sub.
Got rid of our cell phone and went with a "pay-as-you-go" phone. 
Bought a grocery bag full of clothes and woolens for crafts from a church rummage sale.
Used our wood stove to heat our house.
Got more free pallets for firewood.
Watched free TV on Hulu.
Picked a bushel of pears (the last harvest of the year).

That's it for this week.   Hope you have a lovely week ahead.  Stay warm!




  1. Hi Jane! Great tips on weather-proofing, and I love the sight of a well stacked wood pile, too. Love the washstand, but I'm over-the moon for the swan compote. It's really gorgeous, and how nice to have such a memorable day to connect to it. Lovely. Enjoyed the post immensely.
    Have a great week!

    1. Thanks! It certainly is a nice way to remember a very special day. Ha! I guess the woodpile is attractive to our neighbors too! Yesterday the neighbors were sitting outside around a fire and they told us that they "borrowed" some wood from us. We don't mind, it's such a joy to live in a neighborhood where everyone seems so friendly and casual.


  2. Good morning dear Jane ~ It sounds like you all are doing just fine getting your home ready for winter. That stack of firewood does look 'cheering', just knowing you have it ready and waiting.

    Love that washstand and that swan and the memories you shared are priceless.

    Did you use pinto beans for your refried beans?

    The applesauce cake recipe sounds delicious.

    Happy Fall ~ FlowerLady

    1. Hi Rainey! I used kidney beans for these because I had a big batch made up from a previous meal. But pinto beans are the traditional bean and the cheapest too. I find you can use any type of bean, they are all interchangeable. White beans, such as Navy beans are good too. They make great hummus. Navy beans are grown locally, so they are the cheapest around here.

      This time of year just calls for spice cake. Loving every minute of the season!


  3. Hi Jane! Beautiful swan and story. I've only seen one swan around here and it was bought and put in a pond at our nearby Hilton Hotel..ha! And I enjoyed reading about auctions and you sharing your know-how! I would be one of the newbie's who would do it all wrong!

    I made bean burritos not too long ago and my husband couldn't tell there was no meat inside...they were so good and substantial! Your recipes look good and fall-like.

    We put new insulation in our attic and can really tell the difference. Modern materials are so much better than the old. A "this old house" show said more heat is lost through the roof than the windows. My windows are 49 years old (the age of my house). (I feel so house was young when we moved here!) When we first moved here, it was the "energy crisis" and we all used plastic on our windows! I like your wood are all ready! and smart! Andrea

    1. Hi Andrea! Say that was a cute little "flower" growing in your garden! Aren't our babies growing fast? Little Violet is already smiling and trying to talk and rolling over and the little boys are turning three. Time flies!

      We put insulation in our attic when we moved in. There wasn't a bit of insulation in this old house. One of the estate sales was at an old centennial farm and you could see your breath in the attic, there was no insulation up there. If people only understood how much money you save doing these things. I bet you can recoup your money in one year. At least you'll be more comfortable. It's always an energy crisis here, Andrea. I don't like to give the big monopolies like Detroit Edison and Consumer's Power any more money than I need to!


    2. yes it is amazing how smart babies are! Violet is such a lovely name. I don't think my parents or grandparents had insulation in their attics! My parents had natural gas and it had to be very cheap growing up, as our house was too warm. Before that was a coal furnace and that was very hot when someone got up and shoveled the coal in! (But not before! ha). hugs back, Andrea

    3. Oh yes! I remember that the houses were always so hot, but maybe that was because we were little kids and exerted a lot of energy. I always loved to watch my dad shovel coal into the furnace. It just fascinated me. Guess we were easy to amuse back then. Ha!

  4. Good idea to use bubble wrap!
    I can't believe it has already snowed here!
    We did not get that other property after all. (long story)
    One of the good things about that is this hous
    e is pretty well insulated and well built, so it is not too bad to heat it...but we do not have the heat vented into all the rooms, so it can be a bit tricky at times. The spare bedroom is used mostly for storage, so we keep it closed off until needed, and our bedroom is kept cool which is good for sleeping. (I used to heat only that room during the day, but found it retained too much heat at night so that door is kept closed now also.)
    There are definitely some advantages to living in a small home, and lower heating and cooling cost is one.
    God bless!

    1. Hi Lisa! Isn't the weather ridiculous? They say it's sixty today, but I don't know, it's a pretty chilly sixty. The wind is crazy today.

      Sorry that you didn't get the property, but it always seems like when the deals fall through it turns out to be a blessing in disguise.

      Our upstairs is unheated too. Perfect for sleeping. This house has the old fashioned vents from the downstairs ceiling to the upstairs floor. Probably against code now days, but the work great for keeping the upstairs heated.


  5. Thanks for the inspiration! As a former CA girl, I love pinto beans. As a momma of many, I sure appreciate the cost...we buy ours in bulk.


    1. Hi Leslie! Oh yes! When you buy them in bulk, there's not a better food deal out there. At the bulk food store, we can get them for as little as 30 cents a pound. And they're tasty too.


  6. I loved this post and reading the older one about keeping warm. So much good advice. As it gets colder I must remember to look back here. I often wear a woolly scarf in the house and have been know to wear a hat too. I keep a basket of woollen rugs by the sofas so that we can cuddle up with one if it gets cold. I'm a massive fan of hot water bottles too, not only to keep warm but there's something very comforting as well.

    I must try your cake recipe the next batch of apples we get. We only have a baby tree but there are a few in the village who leave boxes outside for the neighbours to help themselves.

    Thanks for all the auction advice too. We love the auctions. We are new to them this year so appreciate all tis useful information.

    I hope that you continue to keep toasty warm.
    Happy days,

    1. Hi Debby! They say if you can keep your head, hands and feet warm, you can stay warm even in extreme cold. So a hat is very practical. Maybe we should go back to the olden days and where bonnets and nightcaps to bed.

      Isn't village life wonderful? I think it's wonderful that the residents leave apples out for others to take. Gives me hope that perhaps the world is redeemable yet.

      Bet you have some wonderful auctions you way. They are so much fun, even if you do get outbid. Around here they also have wonderful food wagons. Recently we went to one that was put on by the Amish. Oh my! The chicken and noodles was out of this world!

      Hope you have a wonderful week!


  7. ps congratulations on winning the wash stand it's beautiful. I totally agree that auction finds can be cheaper and yet more lovely and better made than new versions.

  8. Estate sales and auctions sound like so much fun, I have only ever been to one actual Estate sale, and it was really enjoyable. The washstand looks really nice, how fun to find something for the house. I will have to use the link you posted and see if there are any around here, I have always imagined that the East coast has better estate sales that the west coast because of older more established homes and estates, but it would be fun to see what I could find around here. Beans and rice is one of my favorite meals, I could make a nice meal of a pile of beans and a pile of rice and a tortilla or a handful of chips, I haven't made my own beans in ages, I will have to add some to the grocery list this week, sounds yummy! We still haven't gotten very cold here yet, today I wore a sweater in hopes it would be a crisp fall day anyway! Hope you have a nice weekend! :)

  9. Hi April! I bet you'd have fun going to estate sales. OF course I think you'd have fun anywhere! They run the gamut from mid-century to old old homes around here. I just like to go and poke around. You never know when you'll find a treasure and it's your chance to look into interesting homes.

    It's definately sweater weather here now. We traveled inland today and started out bundled up, then had to get down to our shirtsleeves, only to return home and need our light winter jackets. We never know how to dress this time of year. I guess the warmer weather is nice for the pocketbook, but like you, I long for a nice sunny crisp day. The quintessential autumn day that probably only happens once a year.


  10. I really enjoy refinishing furniture--several pieces have been moving with us for about 20 years.